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Monday, September 20, 2010

FROZEN -- DVD review by porfle

"Predicament" movies are weird.  If they're done badly, they're boring, but if they're done well, they can be torture to endure.  So the only way to judge a movie about stranded people struggling to survive the elements, or trying not to get devoured by man-eating sharks or giant crocodiles, is by how unpleasant it is to watch.  FROZEN (2010) is unpleasant all right, though perhaps not quite the ultimate ordeal the filmmakers were aiming for.

The set-up is about as simple as it gets--three college kids go skiing for the weekend, get stuck on the ski-lift as the lodge closes for the week, and must either figure out a way to get down or slowly freeze to death.  Dan (Kevin Zegers, IT'S A BOY GIRL THING, Zack Snyder's DAWN OF THE DEAD) and Lynch (Shawn Ashmore, "Iceman" in the X-MEN movies) are childhood buddies who have grudgingly invited Dan's girlfriend Parker (newcomer Emma Bell), a novice skier, along on what is usually a "guy" outing. 

Like your typical teen movie, FROZEN begins with the three friends frolicking on the slopes to jaunty rock music and engaging in insubstantial dialogue back at the lodge, with the hint of romantic complications cropping up amongst them.  It's only when the ski-lift suddenly stops as they head up the mountain for one last late-night run that the harsh reality of the "predicament" flick hits our now totally helpless trio with a sickening thud.  While at first it seems like the set-up for an episode of "Seinfeld", they gradually realize that they're in big trouble and the viewer settles in for the ordeal to come.

To the movie's credit, the formerly lighthearted tone turns dark pretty quick as the hopeless situation goes shockingly wrong.  We've only had a brief time to get to know the characters, who aren't all that deep to begin with, but we've been made to care about them just enough to cringe during their increasingly desperate attempts to save themselves.  Meanwhile, they're buffeted by icy cold sleet and stricken with frostbite, and--wouldn't you know it--the bolts holding their ski-lift chair in place are coming loose.

With only three characters, you know something bad's going to happen to somebody sooner or later.  It proves to be sooner when one of them decides to jump, hoping the snow will break the fall.  It doesn't.  At that point, the film offers its equivalent to those man-eating sharks and giant crocodiles when a pack of ravenous wolves emerges from the forest.  This leaves only one remaining course of action--climbing up to the razor-sharp cable overhead and dangling hand-over-hand to the nearest support tower, where a ladder awaits.  Again, the suspense is painfully nerve-wracking.

Performances by the leads are as good as they need to be, with Emma Bell ably supplying most of the histrionics (especially when she starts worrying about what will happen to her dog if she dies).  Writer-director Adam Green (HATCHET, GRACE) wrings a good deal of tension from his simple premise and uses the camera well, with most or all of the outdoor scenes shot on location to establish a realistic sense of windswept isolation.  The stuntwork is coordinated by Jason Voorhees himself, Kane Hodder, who plays a bit part in the film. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with English Dolby Surround 5.1 and Spanish Mono.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  Extras include a commentary track with director Green and the three lead actors, plus four "making of" featurettes, altered and deleted scenes, a trailer, and an Easter egg. 

Not quite as gruelingly suspenseful as BLACK WATER or some other films of its ilk, FROZEN is still one of the most nail-biting flicks I've seen in recent years.  I doubt if it will have much rewatch value for me, but it's just the thing to get the old adrenaline going. 

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